Charcoal: As I said earlier, charcoal sales were up implying more cookouts while charcoal grill sales were down. In recent years, charcoal grills have made something of a comeback. Charcoal grills have a longer lifespan than gas grills (currently lasting about 3 1/2 years according to HPBA) and this durability means fewer grill sales in the long run and of course since most charcoal grills sell for considerably less money, less profit. With Weber dominating the charcoal grill market few companies want to get into this market so there is little new here this year. The only charcoal grill change from Weber is the Weber 22 1/2" One-Touch Platinum Charcoal Grill. This is basically a deluxe version of the standard 22 1/2" kettle that sells around $300. If you consider that Weber has a 26 1/2" for the same price and the much better featured performer for $50 more I suggest you don't buy this new charcoal grill, but one of these others instead.
Pellet Grills: When Traeger, the most recognized name in pellet cookers shipped their manufacturing to China they created a problem for themselves. Complaints began to pile up about a decline in the product and this opened a hole that is quickly being filled by a number of companies. About 50 miles from the factory that used to make Traeger grills is the new MAK Grills. While I have been assured that there is no connection between these two MAK Grills went so far as to pick up Traeger's old spokesperson Bruce Bjorkman as PR and marketing manager for their new line. Also hitting the market recently is the new Memphis Pro Pellet Grills from Hearthland Products. According to one source I talked with 70,000 pellet grills shipped last year. While still a small segment of the overall barbecue market it is a growing one and "made in the USA" seems to be a main feature of many of these new entries including the MAK grill and the Memphis Pro.
Smokers: It has been a tough year for smoker sales as well, but not as bad as it has been for gas grills. True barbecue continues to gain popularity and with TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters there is more and more exposure. While the major manufacturers continue to treat smokers as a sideline, smoker specialty companies are out there and making inroads. Thanks in part to BBQ Pitmasters, Jambo Pits has become a big name in the business. Several barbecue insiders I've talked with name the Jambo smoker as the smoker to have on the competition circuit and it would seem that many people are sporting these units for more than just competitions. Recently I was at an event where BBQ legend Candy Weaver of BBQr's Delight was showing off her customized, pellet powered Jambo Smoker. A beautiful rig that she obviously takes great pride in. Of course these full sized rigs don't come cheap. The J-3 starts around $7,500 and the J-5 at around $12,000. But just recently Jamie Geer, founder and pit builder of Jambo has introduced a patio grill for $375.